Unobtaniums

The following is an article from Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader.

Ready to brush up on your science? Don't worry -it's fake science. Here are the names and properties of various chemicals, elements, and other substances ...that exist only in books, movies, and TV shows.

Dilithium: Crystalline mineral used in the operation of the warp drive on the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek. It controls the "anti-matter" used to power the warp drive. which somehow allows the ship to travel through space faster than the speed of light. Dilithium is in the "hypersonic" family of elements.

Energon: Highly radioactive and extremely unstable, this substance is found throughout the universe, but in its liquid form it's both fuel and food for the giant robots from space in the Transformers cartoons and movies. The search for energon is what leads the evil Decepticon robots to earth, where the chemical is abundant.

Beerium: In Yahoo Serious's Young Einstein (1988), Albert Einstein turns out to be an Australian who, in addition to his many scientific pursuits, invented rock music and beer. He invents beer by splitting the beerium atom, which releases carbonation.

Byzanium: In Clive Cussler's 1976 novel (and the 1980 movie) Raise the Titanic!, the Pentagon begins work on a secret defense system that uses sound waves to deflect missiles. But it requires tremendous power, which can only be produced by a rare, radioactive element called byzanium. And the world's only store of it is locked in a vault on board the sunken Titanic, requiring the book's protagonist, explorer Dirk Pitt, to go get it.

Adamantium: A metal alloy that covers the skeleton of Wolverine in the X-Men comics and movies. It's what allows him to have metal claws protruding from his hands.

Ice-nine: This substance drives the plot of Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle. Ice-nine has such a high melting point that any substance that comes into contact with it instantly freezes. In the novel, scientists fear that since ice-nine could freeze everything on Earth, it could bring about the end of the world.

Carbonite: A Star Wars substance in which living things could be frozen and suspended indefinitely. Most notably, it's how Han Solo was imprisoned for delivery to his nemesis, Jabba the Hut.

Unobtainium: In the movie Avatar (2009), earthlings go to the distant planet of Pandora to mine this fuel source, worth $20 million per kilogram. Writer James Cameron actually took the name from real life: scientists have long used "unobtainium" to describe rare or possibly non-existent materials.

Vibranium: A recurring substance in Marvel Comics, it first appeared on earth 10,000 years ago, when a meteorite made out of it crashed in Africa, causing natives to mutate. In the 1940s, a scientist named Dr. Myron MacLain obtained some while developing iron alloys for military tanks and used it to create an indestructible shield for the Nazi-fighting super-soldier Captain America.

Eitr: According to Norse mythology, this bright-blue liquid is the source of all life, from which the first creature, the giant Ymir, first emerged.

Amazonium: In the comics, Wonder Woman's lightweight armor-like bracelets are made of this metal, found only on her native "Paradise Island". (On the TV show, her bracelets are made of "feminum".)

Melange: The much sought after spice from Frank Herbert's Dune (1965), it's a drug than can both extend life and bend time. Unfortunately, it's extremely rare and extremely addictive. Once you've started taking it, you can't stop -or you'll die.

Deutronium: Found on various planets throughout the universe on the '60s TV series Lost in Space, it's combustible in liquid form, making it the fuel of choice for the Robinson family's Jupiter 2 spaceship.

Cavorite: Making appearances in novels by H.G. Wells (War of the Worlds, First Men on the Moon), it's a rare element that, when heated into a liquid and then cooled, can block the effects of gravity.

Nitrowhisperin: From Get Smart, it was invented by scientist Albert Pfitzer in an attempt to create silent fireworks. It's exactly like nitroglycerin, except that it explodes in silence. The evil KAOS organization tries to use it to destroy the world in a 1968 episode of the series.

Chemical X: In the 1990s cartoon The Powerpuff Girls, the Professor attempts to concoct the "perfect girls" out of "sugar, spice, and everything nice", but accidentally drops in Chemical X, which gives the three little girls super powers.

Mithril: A rare metal in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth of the Lord of the Rings, it looks like silver but is lighter and stronger than steel. When a cave troll stabs Frodo in the Mines of Moria, the hobbit is saved by his vest made of mithril.

Upsidaisium: From the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, this mineral floats in the air, unbound by gravity. Its only known source: Mt Flatten, a mountain that hovers in the sky. (Bullwinkle inherited the mine from his Uncle Dewlap.)

Flubber: In the 1961 Disney film The Absent-Minded Professor, Medfield College chemistry professor Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) botches a calculation and accidentally creates an elastic substance that absorbs energy when it hits a hard surface, causing it to bounce sky-high. He names it 'flubber" (a contraction of "flying rubber"). First Brainard uses it to help basketball players jump higher, which helps them win the big game, and then he charges the flubber with radioactive particles, enabling his Model T to fly.

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The article above was reprinted with permission from the Bathroom Institute's newest book, Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!




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The ice-9 is wrong too. It's freezing point was simply above room temperature. It was an allotrope of ice, such that if it came into contact with other water, it too was converted to ice-9, thus it would freeze the water(now ice-9) but not everything, just things containing water.
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Awesome article with some impressive range and footwork. From a linguistic standpoint, unobtanium was the only element that fell flat for me in the otherwise intricately-crafted AVATAR. With all the hard work James Cameron went to in crafting the layered language and culture of the Na'vi, the clumsy construction of "unobtanium" just felt rushed and tacked on. On the other hand, I suppose you could argue that's exactly the point. The colonizing forces completely neglect the rich textures of Pandora in a frantic search for an element whose name totally misrepresents the planet's nature.

The Latin geek in me also would like to submit that its plural should be "unobtania".
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